The UK’s Textile Recycling Association (TRA) has reiterated that there should be no waste within shipments of clothes sent to African retail markets, after an investigation by British broadcaster ITV spotlighted how countries like Ghana are dumping grounds for apparel not fit for reuse.
Images of 30-foot heaps of high street-labelled garment waste, which spills over from landfill sites into the sea, highlights the need for urgent action within the fashion and textile industries as cities on the Ghanaian coast are devastated by the effects of mass apparel consumption and waste.
Though Africa’s retail markets welcome new shipments every week – creating business from UK fashion’s cast-offs – they increasingly face an influx of cheap, unsalvageable garment waste which only serves to pollute the environment.
The TRA has published a statement off the back of an exposé of life in Ghana’s fashion retail market, which highlights the extent to which garment waste is consuming the city’s coasts and landfill sites.
Footage from a location in the country’s capital of Accra shows workers tiding through mountains of mixed garment waste not fit for reuse. It’s estimated that, due to the growth of fast fashion and sale of low-quality garments, the value of what is subsequently sent to Ghana values just £100 per tonne, half of what it was just a year ago.
There are fears that with this, unscrupulous garment dealers could increase the number of shipments sent across in order to retain a steady income by sifting through more waste for pieces of value on the market.
Of the coverage, Alan Wheeler, director of the TRA, says it “highlights how crucial the used clothing industry is for the economy of Ghana,” as “the main market in Accra employs 30,000 people alone.”
“It also stated the importance for people in the UK to continue donating their used clothing to charity shops, textiles banks and other reputable outlets. The environmental and social benefits of supporting the industry are huge and it has a vital role in tackling climate change and helping the UK to meet its obligation,” Wheeler continued.
Of concerns that cases like this may get out of hand in nations reliant on the cast-offs of western civilisation’s fashion, Wheeler admits: “There must be better regulation of the sector and existing regulation around the exports of used clothing need to be enforced more robustly. There should be no waste in any shipments of used clothing destined directly for sale into African retail markets.”
The TRA has checks in place to verify that its members comply with the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and other key aspects of Environmental legislation. More recently, the association helped deliver on the formation and launch of the Traders Recycling Universal Standard (TRUST) – under which collectors and sorters are required to undergo an independently audited process which covers various different areas of business including compliance with environmental legislation, health and safety, employment law, transport and sound business practice.
It’s thought more stringency is needed from customs both in UK and receiving countries to ensure shipments aren’t made purely to dump surplus stock.
Ultimately, it is the insatiable growth of fast fashion and the subsequent environmental impact that needs to be addressed. Whilst the sale of cheap stock continues to rise, so too will the volumes of waste. This type of apparel has no use in African markets.
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